Derek Thompson:

On a typical day in late February 2013, the government can expect to take in about $9 billion and spend about $15 billion. In Default America, however, we wouldn’t have the authority to spend that extra $6 billion. So those payments would simply go unpaid. Somebody in Washington would have to decide who gets the money they were promised and who doesn’t. Every day. As long as the debt ceiling isn’t raised. Basically, we’d default on 40 percent of our obligations, over and over again.

The consequences of an immediate 40 percent cut to government services would be dire. Practically all federal employees would suddenly see their paychecks go to zero. Some days, the government would get enough money to pay Social Security checks and Medicaid providers. Other days it wouldn’t. Our defense budget would collapse. It would be pandemonium.

This isn’t a politicized analysis, but a hard look at what would happen if the US simply stopped being able to borrow money by hitting the ceiling of how much they are allowed to. It’s the equivalent of living off a credit card you don’t pay off and hitting your credit limit.

Regardless of where you stand, the fact that we have to borrow money to pay 40% of our daily expenses is scary – it’s a government that over promises and doesn’t make up the revenue. Both sides of the equation will have to change if we’re even to get out of this.